My uncle has a tattoo of fucking Saturn or something on his arm. One day when we were kids my sister asked him why he had it. He told her that everybody who’s been to the moon has a tatoo like that. He told her that he used to be an astronaut. She believed him. She believed him so much that the next day of school she sheepishly approached her teacher and told her that she had a special message for the class to hear. She proceeded to get up in front of everyone and proudly proclaim that her uncle had been to outer space and had visited the moon, no less.
Of course, her uncle hadn’t really been to the moon or even to outer space, for that matter — he just had a tattoo of fucking Saturn or something.
I was reminded of this story when I told my seven year old daughter that her great uncle was one of the inventors of the atomic bomb. The difference was that what I told her was true. But if my daughter really did go in front of her class and deliver this message I’m sure she’d probably be laughed out of the room, as my poor sister was in the third grade.
I haven’t yet explained to her that her great grandfather — the old guy that we go out to the coast to visit on Sundays — won a Presidential Medal of Science, a MacArther Genius Award, and was part of a group that won a Nobel prize for discovering human-impacted rapid climate change, cutting world hunger in half, and coming up with key protocols for disaster relief.
But, then again, telling my daughter this would hardly receive a shrug. It’s not like he has a tattoo of fucking Saturn or something.